Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0015796, Fri, 7 Dec 2007 11:13:41 -0500

THOUGHTS: Ella Wheeler Wilcox in SM and PF (?)
Maureen Johnston's query about "miserable concoction" caused me to read more
closely section 5 of Ch. 11 of SM. I was surprised to find there a reference
to Ella Wheeler Wilcox. VN says that as a youth he was subjected to "lots of
stuff by Ella Wheeler Wilcox." This surprised me because, just two days
prior, I spent a bit of time trying to figure out if VN ever read or even
knew of Ella Wheeler Wilcox. In particular, I'd been reading the last
section of Wilcox's memoir The Worlds and I (1918), in which Wheeler talks
about her attempts to contact the spirit of her late husband. The view and
language seemed similar to old John Shade, or so it seemed to me. So...now
that I see that VN did indeed know of her work (her poems, at least), I will
venture the possibility that Mrs. Wilcox does indeed make a cameo appearance
in Shade's poem.

Three parallels:

Shade: "For as we know from dreams it is so hard / To speak of our dear
dead!" (589-590)
Wilcox: "The effort to obtain communication with our dear dead should begin
with prayer and supplication..." (408)

Shade: "I'm reasonably sure that we survive / And that somewhere my darling
is alive..." (977-78)
Wilcox: "Somewhere beyond all this I believed my Robert was living..."

Shade: "A medium smuggled in / Pale jellies and a floating mandolin."
Wilcox: Here is a picture of Wilcox with her beloved mandolin:

Of these parallels, I think the last is most definitive, unless of course
there is another good reason to have a mandolin there.

Matt Roth

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